What do you get when a painter and a dancer combine their talents? The answer to that can be found in Connecticut artist Lynn Walker’s luminous new series of paintings, “Rhythm in Color” on view in the Schuster Gallery at Mystic Museum of Art through June 22. The exhibition, which was awarded to Walker after winning first place in last year’s Regional Show, is the result of her collaboration with dancer and choreographer Christine Poland.
The series is an invigorating and buoyant expression of movement that draws the viewer in with explosive color, pattern and shape. The idea for the project formed when Poland, who heads up Mystic Moves Dance Theater (MMDT), a small community dance project utilizing local talent, approached MMoA’s Education Director Dawn Salerno about using Mystic Museum of Art’s galleries as a venue for dance performances last year. Salerno, who remembered Walker’s winning piece, “Movement”, had the idea to put the two in touch with each other.
“Lynn’s piece really reflects the energy that dance has,” Salerno explains. “There are a lot of visual parallels like layering and pattern between art and dance. After I talked to Christine, the light bulb just went off,” she says.
From there, Walker and Poland embarked upon a project to produce a series of artwork and a dance performance that reflect each other.
“When you think about it, a choreographer is a painter with different tools. Both the [painter] and the choreographer are using ideas, one after the other, changing brush strokes or dance movements. The process is the same. If we are lucky, there will be a leap of imagination that will result in an original work,” says Walker.
This is the first time both artists have collaborated on a project like this. Walker’s artwork and Poland’s dance sequence began from a storyboard developed by Walker after a few brainstorming sessions. Once the dance came together, Walker drafted rough oil sketches while watching the dancers perform in rehearsal.
“It was kind of like describing a dance without words. I could do it, but it was going to take thousands of them. I am very happy with what I think is a great expression of the emotional range. This show is extra special. Working on these paintings has been exhilarating. I am very excited to show these pieces, and I am very enthusiastic with the result. I am hoping the feeling is contagious. However successful these works are, they represent a new [level] for me personally.” Walker adds, “I hope someone likes them. I do.”
For Poland, the experience also proved challenging but rewarding. “For me, it pushed my limits and gave me new movement,” Poland says. “I am hoping the audience [will] walk away with an understanding and appreciation of how movement begins and how a dance is completed,” Poland says.
Poland’s goal for the dance is to use the intimacy of MMoA’s galleries to give the audience and the dancers new perspectives in dance. “There are so many dance companies that perform on formal stages with lighting and costumes, which is fantastic, but seeing modern dance up close is a real treat. Hearing the breath of the dancers and seeing [the performance] without lighting shows the bare bones of what movement actually is. It teaches the dancer how to perform when there is someone two inches away from their face.”
Poland, a North Stonington native, graduated with honors from Roger Williams University with a BA in Dance Performance Studies. She was a founding member and managing director of Rocha Dance Theater in New York City. She has choreographed pieces for the US Coast Guard Academy and taught at the Dance Extension, Kiks Dance Studio, and The Writers Block.
Walker, a lifelong artist, grew up in Old Saybrook, CT. She attended Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme and discovered Mystic Museum of Art when she studied with Mystic artist Dan Truth. She has been an Elected Artist member of MMoA since 1994.
“Rhythm in Color” will be on view in the Liebig Gallery May 10 – June 22. Mystic Moves presents its accompanying dance performance on Thursday, June 6 from 6:30 – 7:30PM.